‘Moana’ leaves a refreshing feel in the Disney franchise


Riding a wave to every movie theater, “Moana,” came out on Nov. 23 and puts its audience in a new adventure taking place in the Pacific Islands.

The movie introduces us to Moana, (Auli’I Cravalho) a big hearted and free-willed girl who longs for the ocean and exploring beyond the island’s surrounding reef. However, restricted by her duties as the next chief of her Polynesian tribe and the protectiveness of her father, she is unable to act upon her dreams until faced with a crisis. Due to demi-god Maui (Dwayne Johnson) stealing the heart of goddess Te Fiti, he unleashes a curse that plagues the islands, causing him, Moana, and a chicken named Hei Hei to go on an adventure to return it. Along the way they have to face monsters that include cute coconut pirates, a giant gold-obsessed crab, and a threatening lava monster by the name of Te Kā.  

Despite the new setting and characters, Disney fails to cover up another usage of their generic plot. Moana is a girl who wants to explore outside of the same place she’s been her whole life but can’t due to an overbearing parental figure and when she finally does leave, she goes on a journey with another guy and a comedic relief, non-human sidekick.This should at least faintly ring a bell to Disney’s older movies, “Tangled” or “Frozen.”

However, regardless of this complaint, the movie is made enjoyable nevertheless due to how well-executed the characters were made. Moana fits the overused trope of any heroine protagonist but is made more lifelike and different. In the movie, we see her struggle over important choices and make flaws that just make her realistic and relatable. Maui also shows flaws and character development that make him human-like despite his status as a demi-god.

Another big part that made the movie entertaining were the musical numbers that pushed the plot forward in entertaining or meaningful ways. Several of the songs were co-written by “Hamilton” star and creator Lin-Manuel Miranda who no doubt had a hand in making them what they are now. Songs such as “You’re Welcome,” or “Shiny,” had a fun beat that, while not earworm infecting, were memorable and got important character traits across. In contrast, Cravalho amazing voice mixed with empowering lyrics in “How Far I’ll Go,” left powerful emotions that could move the coldest of hearts and showcased her character’s strong beliefs.

It also should be no surprise that the animation doesn’t disappoint. Though Disney only recently started using computer animation, their improvement from movies such as “Tangled” to now is apparent. The ocean scenery used throughout the film was not only stunning to see, but it could realistically change depending on the mood of the scene as well. If the scene was bright and cheerful, the sea was clear and colorful, showing off the sea life that lived below. If the scene was darker and more serious, the water was more rapid and had waves that showed off the intensity of what was happening. The dazzling visuals alone were enough to leave one speechless.

Overall, despite its similarities to other plots of Disney films, the movie does it in a refreshing way with amusing yet realistic characters, catchy tunes, and beautiful animation.